Ritchie: Hawks must get into good habits

Matt Pegler, right, is set to start in goal for the Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines
Matt Pegler, right, is set to start in goal for the Hawks. Picture: Dave Haines
Matt Tubbs played well against Sutton. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Injuries are big concern but defensive errors also worry Hawks

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Hawks boss Stuart Ritchie surveyed the pre-season showdown with Pompey and told his men: It’s time to develop good habits.

The Blues visit Westleigh Park for a 3pm kick-off tomorrow.

Ritchie – along with assistant Barry Blankley – has been appointed since the end of last season, taking over from caretaker manager Steve Johnson.

With fresh investment from new vice-chairman Jim Fallon, the pair have been able to boost their squad with six new signings.

Goalkeeper Matt Pegler, defenders Sam Page and Ed Harris, midfielder Lewis Stockford and forwards Tony Taggart and Ryan Moss are all expected to appear tomorrow.

Ritchie’s biggest task is now to integrate the newcomers with the bulk of last season’s squad – finding the right blend before the start of the Blue Square Bet South campaign.

With a squad of more than 20, the players’ biggest challenge is to prove to the new management team they are worthy of a place in the starting line-up.

So far the Hawks’ preparations have been hampered by the weather, with their game at Winchester City last Saturday abandoned at half-time and the midweek trip to Selsey cancelled because the pitch was unplayable.

‘It has been a bit frustrating,’ said Ritchie.

‘We have managed to have four or five training sessions but we are ready to get going out on the pitch.

‘I was hoping to use the first two games to have a look at some of the players on the fringes but that hasn’t happened.

‘Starting against Portsmouth will be a good challenge for us and I will be looking at the performance rather than the result.

‘Results don’t mean a lot this time of the year.

‘This is the time for players to get into good habits and it is all about their fitness, touch and timing.

‘It is also a case of players getting used to playing in a system.

‘We want them to play a certain way but they won’t have to adapt too much.

‘They need to become comfortable with the other players around them.

‘We will be looking at partnerships – which ones work and which ones don’t.

‘The players have to go out there and show us what they are capable of.’

One player definitely missing is goalkeeper Dan Thomas, who fractured an arm at Winchester last weekend.

It is a massive blow for the youngster who was hoping to start the season as the Hawks’ first-choice shot-stopper.

His arm is in plaster and the youngster is ruled out of the start of the season.

That leaves Ritchie with just one keeper, newcomer Matt Pegler, who arrived from Woking in the summer.

Pegler, however, is inexperienced, with only four Blue Square Bet South games to his name.

Ritchie is trying to bring in another goalkeeper.

‘I am talking to a few keepers and seeing if we can arrange something,’ said Ritchie.

‘We have got a tough start to the season and we can’t go into it with just one goalkeeper.

‘It is important we start well with in the difficult four opening games.’

Hawks: Pegler, Arthur, Newton, Pearce, Page, Harris, Woodford, Hinshelwood, Hutchinson, Ryan, Hopkinson, Ramsey, Whyte, Nanetti, Moss, Palmer, Jones, Taggart, Baldacchino.